Archive | Reliability


2:02 pm
May 16, 2016
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Final Thought: The Reliability of Everything (RoE)

Cklaus01By Dr. Klaus M. Blache, Univ. of Tennessee, Reliability & Maintainability Center

Why is reliability attracting so much attention? It’s connected to everything.

Many phone calls I field these days involve requests for reliability and maintainability information or training or assistance in hiring RME (Reliability and Maintainability Engineering) graduates (of which some companies seek more than 20). On a broader scale, my recent online search for “reliability jobs” turned up 127 million, including 870,000 for “reliability engineering,” 392,000 for “reliability technicians,” and 301,000 for “reliability engineering managers.” To understand what’s fueling this situation, let’s examine the following four areas. (When I use the term reliability, I’m typically referring to reliability and maintainability [R&M].)

Access to knowledge has improved. More reliability knowledge is available, and it’s more understandable and easily applied. Visibility and awareness are also higher. The slim R&M professional-development pickings of yesteryear have grown to include more than 10 annual conferences and untold numbers of other training offerings. The workforce’s interest in professional growth that’s been building over decades is also capturing the attention of increasing numbers of employers. During my two-year chairmanship of SMRP (Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals), shortly after the society formed, we just hoped to get enough attendees to our conferences to cover expenses. That situation has changed dramatically, due, in large part, to the emphasis other conferences, publications, and information portals have put on R&M. Better and standardized processes, i.e., the SMRP Body of Knowledge and Uptime Elements, also exist. While R&M professionals still need to personalize their “roadmaps,” these types of foundational resources are a good start.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 9.00.40 AMMore people, at all levels, “get it.” Reliability used to mainly be something engineers “did.” Today, it’s often considered part of everyone’s job, and there’s a clear role for technicians/trades, engineers, and leaders in supporting an R&M vision. Students are also gaining early exposure and experience in the field. For example, in the past five years, the Univ. of Tennessee College of Engineering has graduated about 300 students with RME undergraduate minor and/or graduate degrees. Interestingly, today there are about as many technicians and trades pursuing R&M professional development opportunities as engineers. Managers are seeking specific guidance regarding training and implementation versus just wanting general help. Reliability is also becoming more integrated in plant and corporate business plans with leadership goals.

Reliability can improve most (maybe all) key business metrics. Reliability and maintainability have a positive impact on safety, people, quality, productivity, and costs (what every company targets). Use of the R&M relationship in these areas as a competitive advantage is generating numerous success stories. Organizations can leverage R&M to attain top-quartile performance if they know how to implement it and on what performance indicators to focus. (Note: SMRP and the Univ. of Tennessee are teaming up to provide six metric areas, by industry type, that enable top-quartile performance in the five target areas. Contact me regarding participation.)

Reliability gets results in all types of organizations. Remember that reliability includes people, product, processes (engineering and machinery and equipment), all assets, and facilities, across all sectors. Some operations I’ve recently been involved with (from airlines to mining, pharma, and everything in between) have wanted to drive overall continuous improvement; many have wanted to increase uptime and reduce costs. Reliability, when properly strategized and aligned, can support a variety of other initiatives, i.e., Lean and TPM (Total Productive Maintenance). Specifically, organizations can leverage reliability to build best practices, including precision maintenance, repeatable production processes within specifications, and Weibull analyses to monitor reliability growth.

Think of reliability in Internet of Things (IoT) terms. Just as the IoT reflects connectivity among countless physical objects and networks, the Reliability of Everything (RoE) connects and improves all parts of your business. MT

Based in Knoxville, Klaus M. Blache is director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, and a research professor in the College of Engineering. Contact him at


6:16 pm
May 3, 2016
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Predicting Maintenance at Hannover MESSE

One of the specialty areas set up at the Hannover MESSE show (April 25 to 29, Hannover, Germany) was called predictive maintenance. It was a rather mixed bag of equipment/brand-specific offerings and predictive maintenance “tools” for general use. Here’s what some of the exhibitors had to offer.–Gary L. Parr, editorial director

They weren’t in the actual predictive-maintenance area, but Azima DLI, Woburn, MA, was exhibiting their Trio C10 Series ruggedized 10-in. tablets. The tablets are vibration data collectors and diagnostic instruments. The CX10 is a diagnostic data collector/expert analyzer and the CA10 is a vibration data collector/field analyzer. They are loaded with the company’s ExpertAlert diagnostic software.

Festo, the pneumatics and automation company based in Hauppauge, NY, demonstrated a predictive software component for their systems that takes advantage of Internet of Things technology to monitor all aspects of the automation system.

Hydac Filter Systems, Bethlehem, PA, demonstrated a turnkey fluids condition monitoring unit that can be used in retrofit and new hydraulic applications. The unit uses an optical particle counter and a multi-parameter sensor that measures temperature, water content, conductivity, and dielectric constant.

Asseco Solutions AG, Karlsruhe, Germany, offered their Smart Connected Solutions software, which is a subscription-based service that helps companies map all of their service and maintenance processes. The software manages data from individual sensors to deployment planning and on-site maintenance and documentation. SCS can be linked, using standard interfaces, to a wide range of ERP solutions, in addition to supporting processes such as invoicing. (An English version of the site doesn’t appear to exist.)

Bruel & Kjaer Vibro, Darmstat, Germany, demonstrated their turnkey vibration monitoring system. The system can be used on any rotating machinery, consists of all necessary hardware and software, and is scalable from a single machine to an entire plant. They also offer installation service training.

Aventics Corp., Lexington, KY, was showing their sensors and software system for monitoring pneumatics. The Industry 4.0-ready system monitors all aspects of a pneumatic system, including shock absorbers, positioning, and speed. Software tracks and analyses data, providing reports of declining performance.


5:05 pm
April 14, 2016
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Video | Deep Dive on Condition Monitoring Services

Kory Chance, instrumentation and controls technician at the City of Ames, Iowa municipal power plant discusses some of the benefits in moving to a valve condition monitoring service from Emerson Process Management. Chance reveals the benefits of having an outside condition-monitoring service for such a small operation and be able to remove certain preventative maintenance routines.


8:04 pm
April 11, 2016
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Heed These IR Safety Tips

Thermogram shows hot spot on dry-type transformer at the jumper connection.

Thermogram shows hot spot on dry-type transformer at the jumper connection.

By James Seffrin, Director, Infraspection Institute

When working in a new facility or plant area for the first time, infrared technicians may encounter safety rules that are new or different. Thus, it’s important for thermographers to review safety requirements with project managers prior to beginning any new work.

When contacting a project representative concerning safety, ask these questions:

  • What general safety training and/or site-specific training is required?
  • Is special clothing, shoes, or other personal-protective equipment required?
  • Can infrared and related test equipment be used in the subject areas?
  • Are respirators or additional safety equipment/monitors required?
  • Will the work involve hazardous locations such as confined spaces, scaffolding, or other types of elevated platforms?
  • What medical conditions might preclude a person from working in the subject area(s)?
  • Are there site-specific emergency procedures, including evacuation, designated rally spots, and how to report an incident?

Once the project commences, be sure to maintain good situational awareness and always stay with your qualified assistant. Becoming familiar with area safety rules in advance of a project can help to avoid cancelled projects and embarrassment, while helping maximize safety.” MT

Electrical-Inspection Safety: It Takes Two

If you are a thermographer who performs infrared inspections of electrical-distribution systems, you are not alone—and you never should be. Working alone near exposed, energized electrical equipment is not only dangerous, it’s a violation of federal law.

Administered by OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards for General Industry, 29 CFR, Part 1910 apply to most thermographers working within the United States or its territories. Specifically, 1910 Subpart R covers the operation and maintenance of electric-power generation, control, transformation, transmission, and distribution lines or equipment. Covered facilities include utilities and equivalent industrial establishments.

According to Subpart R, prior to commencement of work, medical and first-aid supplies must be provided for, including persons trained in first aid and CPR when work is on or near exposed lines or equipment energized at greater than 50 volts. Since CPR cannot be self-administered, at least two people trained in first aid and CPR must always be present when working near most exposed energized equipment.

Remember: Having a second CPR-trained person along will not only satisfy OSHA requirements, it may save your life.

Jim Seffrin, a practicing thermographer with 30+ years of experience in the field, was appointed to the position of director of Infraspection Institute, Burlington, NJ, in 2000. This article is based on two of his “Tip of the Week” posts on For more information on safety and other infrared applications, as well as various upcoming training and certification opportunities, email or visit


7:59 pm
April 11, 2016
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Select & Safely Operate Backup Generators

Power Transmission Line. Lightning strike. 3d render

When lightning strikes, backup generators become valuable tools. As with anything else in a plant or job site, safety should be the top priority.

Electrical outages caused by severe storms and disasters can be mere inconvenience or a serious problem. Whatever the origin and extent of an outage, backup generators offer a reliable power source and great peace of mind. As with all things electrical, though, the incorrect use of generators can create potentially hazardous situations—for end-users and electricians, as well as for utility workers who install and maintain power-distribution systems.

The Energy Education Council’s “Safe Electricity Program” recently outlined crucial considerations in selecting and safely operating the right generator for an application. Keep this advice in mind at work and at home.

Decide what needs to be powered.
What appliances, devices, and equipment are essential? Choose a generator size that can handle the full load of the estimated power needed. Note that it takes more power to turn an appliance on—its surge power—than it does when in continuous operation.

Stand-by or portable.
Stand-by generators are permanently wired units installed by a professional electrician. The installation should include a transfer switch that prevents feeding electricity back into overhead lines, which can be deadly for linemen. These generators are fueled by natural gas or propane from existing gas lines and automatically turn on in the event of a power outage.

Portable generators are typically fueled with diesel or gasoline, which must be regularly refilled. Unlike stand-by units, these must be turned on and off manually, and appliances must be directly plugged into the generator with a suitably rated extension cord.

Be aware of local ordinances.
Depending on location, electrical, positioning, or noise, codes may apply to operating or installing backup generators. Local electrical contractors or generator dealers can help with the selection of code-compliant units.

Operate safely.
Once a generator is installed and ready to run, heed these guidelines to ensure safe operation:

  • Thoroughly read and follow all manufacturer instructions to properly ground the generator before turning it on.
  • Do not connect portable generators directly to an electrical system. Doing so could re-energize overhead power lines and endanger the lives of utility linemen working to restore power.
  • There should be nothing plugged into a portable generator before starting it to prevent a surge from damaging the appliance.
  • When running a portable generator, always use properly rated extension cords (length and load) when connecting appliances.
  • Always operate portable generators in a well-ventilated space to avoid
    carbon monoxide poisoning and other harmful fumes. Never operate a generator indoors.
  • Generators can pose an electrical risk when operated in wet conditions. Make sure the generator stays dry during its operation, and never touch electrical equipment with wet hands.
  • Exercise caution around portable generators, which have exposed engine parts that could burn or injure individuals. Keep children and animals away from running generators.
  • Exercise care when refueling portable generators to prevent potential fires
    and spills.
  • Properly shut down portable generators by turning off and unplugging all appliances and equipment they are powering.
  • Remember to perform regular maintenance before and after each use. For portable generators, inspect oil and fuel filters, oil level, spark plugs, and fuel quality. Stand-by generators require less maintenance, but should still be inspected before and after power outages. MT

For more information about choosing and safely operating a backup generator, visit

The Energy Education Council, Urbana-Champaign, IL, is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting electrical safety and energy efficiency. Established in 1952, and headquartered within Univ. of Illinois Extension, the Council serves as a forum for diverse utility and energy organizations to collaborate on the mutually vital issues of efficiency and safety. Learn more at


7:49 pm
April 11, 2016
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Choose The Right Emergency Stop

With today’s number of customizable available options, selecting the right emergency stop (e-stop) for process equipment can be a daunting task, but it’s critical for overall safety. According to human-machine-interface (HMI) experts at EAO Corp., Shelton, CT, fitting equipment with a highly functional e-stop in line with the basic application design concept, versus a lesser-certified safety switch, is key. MT

Determine if your application requires Category 0 or Category 1 shutdown.
This is crucial in the placement, size, electrical specifications, mechanical characteristics, color, and number of required e-stops.

Research international and North American standards, performance ratings, and codes that govern your application (see table below).
Each industry has unique regulatory standards. These restrictions may govern factors such as size, color, and contact terminals.

Select the product.
Choose your e-stop based on design factors to meet industry demands and international compliance. Proper selection involves understanding market and application requirements, environmental conditions, and electrical demands.

Vendors often provide a variety of unique features to enhance your e-stop and complete virtually any application. It’s important to research these additions as some accessories may be mandated by industry standards.

Consult an expert.
Many suppliers offer consultative services to assist customers throughout the process of selecting and integrating their HMI needs, from individual e-stops to completely designed and produced ‘mixed technology’ solutions.

For more information on e-stops and other HMI components and systems, visit

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